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Written by J. Drake

When wars are fought, heros are made, but it's unusual for a hero to come in the form of a horse! In a time when the war horse had almost been forgotten, this little mare brought history back to life. It all began in Korea when a race horse named Flame of the Morning was born sometime in the late 1940's. Flame's owner, Kim Huk Moon (a young jockey), loved her very much but times were hard and his sister needed an artificial leg when she lost her leg in a land-mine accident. Faced with the hard decision of selling the beloved race mare, Kim sold Flame to a United States Marine gun crew who purchased her for $250 of their own money to be used as an ammunition carrier at the front lines of the Korean War.

When Flame was brought back to camp by the young lieutenant who found her, she was given a new name. The name "Reckless" was bestowed upon her, named after the weapon she would serve. Reckless's temperment was level-headed and willing. It was as if she just knew what she was supposed to do. In fact, she got along so well in her new surroundings and job that she was given free-run of the place and would find herself sticking her head into tents to doze with the men by the stove at night. She was fitting right in with the Marines and her normal diet consisted of barley,sorghum, hay, and rice, although sometimes a chocolate bar and candy found it's way to her as well. Apparently, the chestnut mare had also developed a weakness for her rations and often-times the men would return to a wrecked tent which she had torn apart looking for any goodies that might be found.

When her preliminary training for the battle field was over, Reckless was taken out for the first time into combat in February of 1953. When the first loud cracks of the recoilless reifles sounded off, the little mare became only slightly unnerved but regained her composure in quick order. It wasn't long until Reckless went along as if the guns weren't even there. She was then packing six rounds of ammunition per trip and working her way carefully through the rough terrain to reach her destination from firing position to firing position as the Marines moved to take the hill called Detroit. Reckless had made twenty-four trips total that day which was about twenty miles total. She had carried a total of about 3,500 pounds of ammunition, which was way more than the men would have been able to carry had they been without her help.

Then, in March, Reckless proved how invaluable she was to her men at Vegas Hill. Early in the morning before the sun had even come up, she was loaded up with eight rounds of ammunition. After a few trips led by her handler up the steep 45 degree inclines and rough path, she soon learned her way on her own. The men went up with her by her side, carrying three rounds of ammunition as well. On and on the little mare went until after she had made a total of twenty-one trips of carrying the heavy load. She was then given a meal, water, and a good rub-down. Just a little while later though, she went back into duty willingly.

At times Reckless went up the hard path alone and made her way to the men's firing position on her own. She was able to make two trips for every one the men could make. During these trips, Reckless took a hit above her eye and flanks where shrapnel had hit her. As the day got later, her load was lightened to just six rounds vs. the eight she had been carrying and by the time it was dark, she had logged up to fifty-one trips that day which was a total of thirty-five miles over the rough and steep terrain. She had carried a total of 9,000 pounds that day. She continued to haul ammunition for two more days until the men had won the battle for Vegas Hill.

After her heroic efforts at Vegas Hill, Reckless had won the hearts and the respect of the entire 1st Marine Division. By the end of the Korean War, she was as much a part of the men as any of them were. The question was brought up though as to what would happen to the little chestnut mare when they left? Would they have to leave her behind? Surely not! The Marine's motto is "leave no man behind" isn't it? Yet, it seemed impossible to bring her home with them as there was no military funding to transport a horse to the United States. After a story was published in the Saturday Evening Post, a cargo line offered to help ship Reckless home at no charge.

On November 10, 1954, Reckless set foot on American soil for the first time in her life in San Fransisco. She was greeted enthusiastically by large crowds of people who gave her a hero's welcome. In fact, she was greeted by more people at her arrival than the Vice President, Richard M. Nixon, had just a week earlier. Reporters swarmed around her to get pictures as she posed for the camera and she was just as poised then as she was in battle. Her arrival also marked the 179th birthday of the Marine Corps. She was an honored guest at the birthday celebration where she rode an elevator to the tenth floor of a hotel to enjoy cake with the rest of her men.

Reckless then went on to Camp Pendleton in California, which was to become her new home. While there, she performed a few publicity duties and gave birth to four foals, two of which were colts who were named Dauntless and Fearless. She was given a gold and crimson sheet for special occassions on which she hung her purple hearts and Service Medals. She was officially retired in 1960 at the rank of staff sergeant with full military honors and many awards. She was granted full quarters at the base's stable for life. She was never to have anything other than a blanket on her back ever again. In order to give her exercise, her caretaker was to run along side her as she trotted until she was tired.

In 1968, Reckless said her final farewell to the men she served with after suffering from a serious injury and had to be euthanized at the age of 19 pr 20. A plaque now hangs on the wall of the stable she lived in to commemorate the courage of the little mare who fought so bravely with the Marines in the Korean War.

Reckless Facts:

Color: Chestnut
Markings: Blaze and three white socks
2 Purple Hearts
Gold Conduct Medal
Presidential Unit Citation with star
National Defense Medal
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Korean Presidential Unit Citation

Read more about Reckless in this Great book about her:

Reckless - The Pride of the Marines